« PreviousContinue »
Diseases are also not only trainers of the character, in their legitimate influence, to true, moral, law-abiding dispositions, in every direction of interest and duty; they are likewise, when occurring in those who are dear to us, powerful awakeners of personal sympathy and kindness. Sickness is thus, at the same time, a part of the physical heritage of Adam's original transgression, and one of the necessary elements of the world's moral education and renovation. Maternal anticipations of danger, or realizations of anguish, are not the only preparatives, appointed from infinite desire for the child's highest good, in the end, with such severe kindness by God, in order that she who is to be specially honored with the responsibility of standing in God's place to the child, to train it for him, may be sure to feel the sacredness and solemnity of the great immortal trust committed to her care. The inherent feebleness and unavoidable exposures and constant sicknesses and frequent deaths of childhood are all so many new and powerful reminders to every thoughtful parent, that children are not household toys or mere pretty fondlings of earthly affection or of parental pride ; but candidates for eternity, placed here, for a little while, to be better prepared for the company of the blessed. Parents must travail in spiritual birth, in the depths of their hearts, for the intellectual and moral development of their children, as does the mother physically for their emergence from embryonic into outward, open life; and the fact that so few parents ever thus struggle inwardly before God for their highest well-being, is the reason why so few children ever attain to any great mental or religious excellence. The most menial offices of love to children and invalids form a necessary part also of the world's outfit for men's highest moral training. Performed for moral reasons, and with gracious aims and affections, they may be made not only dignified, however humble in themselves, but also heroic; and the more distasteful they are in their own character, the more selfforgetful and beautiful be the spirit of him who cheerfully and constantly renders them. Was ever a lesson from God
to man taught to the race with more strange impressiveness than that of happy service to others, in whatever lowly way may be demanded or convenient, when the Maker and Saviour of the world washed the disciples' feet and said: “ If I, your Lord and Master, wash your feet, ye ought also to wash one another's feet.” Physical experiences form the greater part of the life of most men, and physical kindnesses are not only within the power of all men, but form also the chief opportunities of usefulness that most men possess.
6th. By what mighty forces, as “secondary causes,” molecular, igneous, electric, magnetic, aerial, hydraulic, and meteorological, does he hold the physical elements of earth in quiet position and harmonious action for man's good.
How does he keep them, although like furious beasts in themselves, yet calm and meek-eyed in their leashes. The mild beauty of nature, who can fail to see and feel and admire. Even poor, apostatized, heathenish men have been ever constrained by its sweet influences, in all ages and countries, to bow in worship, if not to its great Creator, yet to itself, in their blindness, as his image. The sense of the universal “Kóopos” (order) has had almost the force of a native instinct in the human heart, so irresistible are its appeals to the natural sensibilities of all men. The ocean he binds in its place with a rope of sand. The ever-moving air, of strength enough to hurl into atoms any structure that man can erect in the dust, and which he sometimes lets sufficiently loose from his hand to remind us of its allconquering power, he softens habitually so much, as not to let it smite too roughly the cheek of a little child, or even to shake off from their tender stems the sweet ripe fruits of summer. When storms do come, as come they sometimes must, to purify the air, it is but to shake up its elements, as in a bottle, that they may be the better mixed for human respiration. "He rideth on the wings of the wind” and “ruleth the raging of the sea,” all from love to man and all for man.
V. The great, generic forms of God's providence.
These should be viewed as they are, both at large and also specifically, in ever growing abundance of good to men; especially when joined, by their own choice, in close connection at heart with him.
1st. The direct, continued maintenance of the course of nature. This is but another name for the course of providence; the one denoting results, and the other, their living source in the will of God; the one describing appearances as such to man's eye, and the other, actual, determinate forms of immediate divine activity. So the doctrine of " the saints' perseverance," as it is generally called, when viewed in its subjective aspects, is often described, in a better form of statement, objectively, as that of the saints' divine preservation to the end.
2d. The establishment and maintenance of the great laws of social life, order, and development, and of the appointed results of human labor and character. The facts and forces of true, social philosophy are nearly or quite as marvellous, when gauged by the most thorough rules of scientific, Christian measurement, as those of outward nature itself. In society at large there is not only a stable order of things constructed, as in the sidereal heavens, out of very unstable elements, but one also perpetually and grandly progressive. Vast and complicated as is the real, although invisible, enginery of God's providence, it is yet all harmonious in its workings and issues. Its aims and objects are those that concern not only individuals, as such, in their constant activity and growth of power, feeling, and purpose, but society, likewise, as a vast vitalized organism of mutual agencies, influences, and issues, and more immediately and absolutely the church, as God's cherished and ultimate object of interest and effort among all things earthly.
3d. The “giving of our daily bread," and of “ all those things that our heavenly Father knoweth that we have need of,” and which“ if we seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness," we may be sure “shall be added unto us.”
In the constancy, variety, and superabundance of the provision thus made for each man, with proper toil, skill, prayer, and faith on his part, in combination, how has God shown not only wonderful forethought, and fore-love, for every individual of the race, but also immediate, ever-active, abounding interest in his present personal welfare.
In the very perishableness of human food, even beyond that of animals, there is not only a constant, designed provocative to industry, but also, as in the daily bestowal and daily perishableness of the manna in the desert, a perpetual repetition of the lesson of our unceasing dependence upon God for life and breath and all things. How may each of all earth’s vast population say: "He loadeth me with benefits"; "my cup runneth over.” “Every good gift and every perfect gift cometh down from above, from the Father of lights.” “What hast thou, that thou hast not received ” ?
In what way does the father of a family show his worthiness of headship in the household, and his own deep personal love to each and all its members, as in the everflowing, all-pervading fulness of his personal zeal to supply, at all times, the wants of all, and of each one differently, according to their several degrees of strength and development, in ever new forms of love and taste and joyous generosity of feeling towards them? What are occasional presents, however magnificent in themselves, compared with the multitudinous kindnesses that are scattered at every moment, through all the year, from his heart and hand, like dew on summer flowers, on every inmate of his happy home? Such, for kind, but in infinitely greater wealth of bestowment, is God's daily bounty; which yet so few ever mention with exulting thankfulness to him, or even to their fellows concerning him, or, in fact, ever seem themselves to behold. How should such constant and surpassing bounteousness of personal good-will, in such widely ramified relations of desire and want, attainment and enjoyment, affect their hearts with ever fresh delight in God, as well as in his gifts,
far beyond any of those startling deliverances from evil, or pleasing surprises of benefaction, or of success, which, from their greatness or suddenness combined, convince them at any time powerfully of God's remembrance of them for good.
4th. Divine revelation, with its formal attests, and with the Spirit, not only in the word, but also, in answer to specific, earnest, persistent, believing prayer, in the heart of him who is not only willing but eager also to understand it in its true sense and spirit.
It is a necessary moral inference, from the style in which the world was made and stored for the intelligent beings that were to be placed within it, and from the high intellectual and moral structure of man's own nature, that God would communicate to mankind, in a clear, certified form, both his own will, and, with their acceptance of him in his true relations, his own self.
5th. The incarnation, which, in itself and in all its bearings, is the highest demonstration made by God of himself to man, and probably also to the moral universe at large, and the foundation of all man's means of recovery, or of his hopes of it, from without or from within. He is “the Way, the Truth, and the Life,” to everything good on earth and to everything prepared in heaven for mortal man.
6th. The church, purposely and skilfully constructed of God, as the living body of Christ,“ holding forth the word of life" for him in this dark world, executing his will, presenting his image to all mankind, and ever saying, with “the Spirit and the bride,” to all men, “come,” —come to glory and to God.
7th. The perpetual dispensation of the Spirit, — called a dispensation, both because of the breadth of its bestowal on the world at large, and specially on the church as such; and also because of the continual renewal of its influences in every age to all mankind.
“ The Spirit of promise,” man's appointed a Comforter,” is ever lovingly busy, except when grieved away from any sinner by the wanton and continued rejection of his love, in pressing moral truth, in every possible